The Rhythm of Life
Introduction to Zikr
Though inspiration guides me to write something on this subject there is also a feeling of some trepidation as I do, because Zikr is an experience. It is not something that can be caught in words, for the very words may well lead to discussion and the whole reason for participating in Zikr is to experience Divine Unity. Words cannot ever fully describe the experience, and of course the experience is different for each participant. So this is some short guideline/ explanation of the unexplainable ~ may be now you can understand my trepidation?
It also feels appropriate to address the shamanic aspect of this work. The value of Zikr is that it works and travels beyond, through, above en beneath all peoples, traditions and religions. Even though as we practice it, it is an esoteric practice from the Islamic tradition, it is far more than can be contained in any one stream of religion, since religions have found it necessary to compete against each other, and vie for ‘believers’ instead of remembering the Joy and Truth in each message and the fundamental message of each religion that there is a Divine Energy that connects us all which leads us to respect each other. This is the Truth that underlies not only each religion it is also the Spiritual Wisdom of the Ancient Wisdom Keepers, the shamans, and all medicine women and men.
As one of the leaders of the Indigenous peoples of Americas Eagle Clan Dave Courchene says : “The Foundation of all life is Love.” These words are ultimately the foundation of every form of religion and belief only we as humans have wandered from and lost touch with this fundamental Truth. Still we can return to this Truth both within religion and outside of it. As we grow in our understanding and embodiment of the Zikr we will return to the Sacredness of All Life. This is precisely the message of the Indigenous Peoples who have “Remembered”.
The word Zikr means Remembrance and so it is the practice of Remembrance. It has roots in the Islamic tradition and still is related to all forms of meditative, sung prayer with or without body movement. The words which we often sing in Zikr are “La illaha il Allah Hu” (there may be many variations on these words according to the dialects of Arabic used) and some Zikrs also use the 99 Beautiful Names of God. These are names used in the Qu’ran to describe Allah. For more information on these ‘facets of The Divine’ see the part entitled Wazaif.
The practice is one of remembering that there is nothing that is not God. This is the translation of the Arabic words. The first part “La illaha” is a statement of denial – “There is nothing”. The second part “Il Allah Hu” affirms that all is in God. Though probably opinions will vary on interpretation, to me this means that literally in the whole of Creation there is nothing – no single solitary part of the Whole of Creation that is not part of the Divine Whole. As this practise deepens an awareness comes of the Truth of this statement and an insight that we cannot judge on the basis of this small part of life we experience. That there is an
Ultimate Truth and that All is a part of it. I have found that the more I do this practice the deeper my understanding of this ‘wholeness’ becomes. Nothing, NO THING is excluded. This can be quite an insight when I am feeling hot under the collar about something! That too is God!
As we practise we will remember more and more deeply the Divine Unity we areand which surrounds us. This is generally not an awareness that once it has been found can be maintained on a daily basis without further effort. As Pir-o-Murshid Moineddin Jablonski said: “The pearl of Sufism is formed within the shell of constant training.” Life itself offers us this training. It offers the opportunity to constantly tune our hearts to ‘Remembering’ no matter what is going on around us, remembering the Divine is hidden in all. In the midst of difficulties the Zikr can come singing along within us, reminding us yet again, that that which is before us is also an integral part of Divine Unity. Regular spiritual practice is the way to deepen our Zikr experience and practising in groups enhances the experience. Having a spiritual family may also deepen our experience and ‘hold’ us in our practice.
There are those who will tell you that Zikr is Arabic & from the Islam. They are right, this is a truth about Zikr. It is ‘their truth’ and is to be respected as such. This is what works for them as an opening to Divine Unity. My experience is that singing these (and other) prayers can bring this experience of Divine Unity. And this experience does not know any limits or boundaries except those that are mine – as I release my conceptions and pre-conceptions of ‘good/bad’, ‘worthy/unworthy’ and open up to BE, so my understanding, my experience of Zikr opens wider than just to one tradition ~ to me the Path of Life is about searching to find the Names that work for each individual. It doesn’t have to be one name or one practice. We are all different, have different needs and attunements, different histories and wounds to heal. The Search is to find the Divine Words that will bring each of us into the experience and Presence of Divine Unity. We each have our own ‘doorway’ through which we can experience the Divine. Some doorways toward The One are wide & will accept many names and forms. Some doorways are narrow only one Name will go through. There is a difference and there is no better or worse ~ just a difference. As is said in one of the prayers of Universal Sufism“Raise us above the distinctions and differences which divide.” Instead of looking at the difference in the ‘doorways’ let us rejoice that we have found ways to be in touch with Divine Unity and rejoice in our differences – without distinction or discrimination.
Of course it is wonderful to be able to share this and when we practice, together or alone, we do share it as we give these Sacred Words a voice and bring the air around us into greater vibration. It is often more powerful to practice in a group. The very practice of doing Zikr touches the deepest essence of our being and of Being-ness. Having done Zikr we are not the same as we were before doing it. So what do we gain from Zikr? That which pervades our being is not always tangible. Still the vibrations we create as we sing and repeat these holy names, bring their special contribution to us and to the whole of creation and work toward the Healing of All to re-unite in the Wholeness of Sacred Unity.
The ways of sharing and wanting to share Divine Inspiration are strewn with the pitfalls, those of our ancestors and of our contemporaries. Beloveds who having had some experience felt they ‘knew the Truth” and were and are willing to resort to violence “for the greater glory of God”. This mistaken Divine Passion can lead us astray; can give us the impression that ‘we know’ or ‘that we need to save the others’. When these thoughts arise we have left the Presence of Divine Unity and are experiencing others as separate from us. The practice of Zikr is to bring us into the experience of Divine Unity, which includes everything and excludes nothing. To use the explanation of Zikr given to Pir Shabda Kahn by his Buddhist teacher the Tai Situ Rinpoche: “Every single relative reality including everything and not excluding anything is the manifestation of the incorruptible, unchangeable Ultimate.” When you are in this state or connected to it, you can’t harm anyonebecause you would be harming yourself. This is the connection we need to re-establish within ourselves, with our families, friends and relations and between humankind and Nature.
When you have found a doorway, or doorways that bring you into this experience of Divine Unity, praise the Divine Inspiration that brought you to this experience and express your gratitude. Gratitude in itself is another doorway to the Divine. These door-ways form a channel for radiance, this is the true effect of Zikr. It brings you light, enlightens your life and your being. As stated before no words ever really touch or truly describe the experience. Still it radiates through the rest of your life. Your practice will bring you more and more experience, deeper and deeper into your heart, flowing from your heart into your hands and your actions, into your feet and every step as you walk. Don’t leave this treasure on your meditation mat! Take it with you throughout your day there is no part of your day or your life that Divinity does not want to be with you. That is why S/He has created you, me and all ‘others’, the Whole of Creation, to be in it, with it and experience it Her/Himself ~ in all the abundant and myriad ways, forms and beings ~ without judgement and in relationship, respect, mercy and grace.
The Wazaif come from the tradition of the Islam. In this tradition there are 99 names which attempt to make the indescribableness of The Divine understand-able to us mortals. It may bring a smile to know that the list of 99 is by no means finite. It can even vary from one book to another. This emphasizes the inadequacy of words. Even if the list were 1001 names (which is there in the Hindu tradition to describe the Divine Feminine) it is still not complete, for to us there is always something within the experience of the Divine which, though felt, cannot be expressed within this form of duality and limitation.
Some wazaif are used in these Zikrs. An explanation will be given in the description of each prayer. For further information on ‘The 99 Beautiful Names of Divinity’ please consult the bibliography.
Other names …
When you are working with the names of Divinity do not forget your own name, the one you grew up with. Remembering – there is nothing which is not part of The Divine. So ultimately even names that may carry associations of pain and hurt experienced in life, and which have been discarded because they are too painful ~ can be healed and brought back into the feeling of Divinity. Remember, nothing is denied a place at Holy Wisdom’s table. You and your name are indeed one of the creations of the Divine. Insh’Allah you will notice a difference as you work with the Zikr and the Wazaif and notice the healing of the Self. As these qualities permeating through to other aspects of your life they can pour healing through these Doorways of Divinity. Watch out ~ Miracles Do Happen! Whether you will choose to return to that name and use it daily again is and remains your choice. The experience of the healing is definitely a positive contribution not only to yourself but also to the whole of Creation. All our healing helps the Whole Great Cosmos of Creation.
Pir-o-Murshid Moineddin Jablonski wrote many poems and aphorisms and some of them touch the experience of Zikr: “Zikr is the returning to God of that song which we are.” Through spiritual practice we come to remember who we really are. The Sufi Zikr often ends with the sound ‘Hu’ which is the sound that sums up and contains all the other sounds. I often describe “Hu” as being to the Sufis what the “Aum” is to the Hindu’s. It is a sound that directly connects us to the Heart of the Divine. It is the condensed sound of the whole of the Zikr.
Another couple of quotes from Moineddin: “Zikr is the perfection of remembrance, and the remembrance of perfection.” And this one which feels like a good description of the Heart of Zikr: “Unity speaks to unity when ‘I’ and ‘Thou’ cease to be.”
Ultimately the process of making contact with the Divine is a very intimate and personal process. Through the ways in which religions have grown and been developed into institutions some may have the feeling that they ‘need someone to intercede’ ~ a ‘go-between’ ~ someone who will prepare the way between them and God/ Allah/ Divinity. While there is nothing ‘wrong’ with this, it could be seen as a form of giving away your true power. God does love you and wants to be in touch with you, directly and indirectly. S/He is all there is. There is nowhere that S/He is not waiting for you. You ARE never alone.
And so we see, the inadequacy of words has made room for many words! Please forgive me. This in an attempt to share with you what Zikr is for me. An attempt to inspire you to do it and find your own experience and your own words.
Toward the One, the Perfection of Love, Harmony and Beauty, The Only Being, united with all the Illuminated Souls who form the embodiment of the Master, The Spirit of Guidance.
 Pir Moineddin Jablonski was the previous Pir (Spiritual Director) of the Sufi Ruhaniat International. He was the named successor of Pir Samuel L. Lewis who was the founder of this Tariqa of the Sufi Message brought to the West by Hazrat Inayat Khan.
 Tai Situ Rinpoche is Pir Shabda’s own teacher. In our Sufi family each of us has to have a living spiritual teacher though we may have many on the hidden and inner planes we also have a teacher who will stand next to us in body. See: www.dharmafellowship.com